lenvoy

lenvoy (noun), also lenvoie, lenvoye

(1)  The final stanza of a ballade, from the French equivalent term envoi, often with a different number of lines from the stanzas of the main text of the ballade.  In French poetry, this final stanza originally addressed the ‘princes’ of a Puy (the judges of a poetry society’s competition) or the poet’s lady or patron, but later ballades have envois which continue the sense of the poem and do not feature direct address.  Gower gives each of the ballades in his Cinkante Balades an envoi, and Chaucer gives many of his English ballades a lenvoy.  The mid-fifteenth-century MS Fairfax 16 labels the final stanza of various of Chaucer’s ballades as ‘Lenvoy’.

(2)  The scribe of the Hengwrt and Ellesmere manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales labels as ‘Lenvoy de Chaucer’ the six stanzas on the same rhyme-sounds (ababcb) which the Clerk calls his ‘song’ at the end of his tale.  Chaucer or his scribe may have considered this section of text a lenvoy because it concluded the tale, because it concluded a narrative in a more complex form, or because it was a kind of direct address (by Chaucer or by Chaucer in the persona of the Clerk). This particular instance may well have influenced later usage.

(3)  Chaucer’s witty poems to Henry Scogan and Peter Bukton are labelled as lenvoys in several manuscripts.  These rubrics may indicate that these poems were (or were imagined by scribes to be) verse-epistles sent by Chaucer to his friends and/or that here Chaucer speaks in propria persona.

(4)  The term lenvoy is used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to refer to a concluding section of a poem or to the conclusion of a part of a longer work.  This concluding section is often in a form different to (and often more elaborate than) the form of the main body of the text which precedes it.  Lenvoys often use more elaborate stanza forms or more elaborate rhyming patterns (either through-rhyming, where each stanza of the lenvoy has the same rhymes, or other kinds of stanza-linking by rhyme).  Often the lenvoy takes the form of a fixed-form ballade, with all three or four stanzas on the same three rhymes, often each stanza having the same final-line refrain.

(5) As defined by its content, the term lenvoy often signifies a concluding section of a text, in which the author might address a patron or lover directly, or might dismiss or say farewell to the text itself (often using a variation on the ‘Go, little book’ formula).  In the lenvoy, a poet might apologise for his lack of skills in writing the poem, and ask the poem’s intended readers to correct any elements they might find objectionable.

(6) John Lydgate, in his Fall of Princes, follows each of his narratives of the falls of great men and women from power with sections he labels as ‘lenvoies’, each usually through-rhymed with final-line refrain in each stanza, each summarising and moralising the narrative which precedes it.  According to Lydgate, his patron Duke Humfrey requested that each narrative be followed by such a lenvoy.  Lydgate’s term simultaneously defines a lenvoy as a concluding section of text, a section in which the author speaks directly to his audience, and a passage of formal complexity and repetition.  The Tudor chronicler Robert Fabyan, imitating Lydgate, concludes the life of Henry V in his prose chronicle with a three-stanza lyric headed ‘Lenvoy’.  Alexander Barclay’s translation of the Ship of Fools concludes each section with a direct address from Barclay to various sections of society labelled as a lenvoy.

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